It takes a full team

One of the great misconceptions in working to build a startup from scratch is that you need only be great at one thing – typically product development – and then you can wing and learn the rest.

Why do I think it’s a wrong approach?

First of all, you’re essentially working on a wrong assumption about what’s needed to become really successful. Because just as innovation, product development and delivery takes skill and experience, so do the ‘boring’ business parts.

In essence it may actually be more difficult to build a business than develop a product; when you’re developing a product you can get very far with your own skills (provided they’re good enough), but when you move out into the market, the whole world goes into flux, the interdependencies are huge and the risk as well. And it just takes a pretty steady set of hands to work that infinite space.

Second, you risk spending your time, energy and ressources on the wrong things. If you’re a stellar developer, you should be focusing on development. Full stop. You should now water down and defocus your unfair advantage by taking on tasks, you don’t feel confident in and – lets face it – basically care very little about.

You should leave all those things to people who have the same qualities as yourself – but within the business/market facing aspects of your startup.

In summary, the key message here is that it ALWAYS takes a full team to succeed. And since you cannot by everywhere and bring your A game to every aspect of getting a successful business up and running, make sure that you get A players in all positions and show them faith and trust that they’re capable people who knows what’s needed to be successful.

That’s the best way for you to maximize your chances of success.

(Photo by Guille Álvarez on Unsplash)

See you at TechBBQ

This Thursday and Friday I am going to the TechBBQ tech conference in Copenhagen.

Am I looking forward to it? You bet, I am. I can’t remember when the last time was I had the opportunity to go to a conference, meet new people and learn interesting things. But it feels like it has been ages.

I think a lot of us are really looking forward to going out among others again in a professional setting after the long Covid-19 isolation. And maybe – just maybe – the lockdown has been a blessing in disguise in the sense that we’re now not taking opportunities to meet in person for granted but are instead looking to get the absolute most out of them.

I certainly intend to. I have a bunch of 1:1 meetings lined up with interesting people, but if you see me there, please feel free to come and say ‘Hi!’.

If you’re unsure of whether it’s me, I will be wearing ‘People’ clothing, so I should be recognizable.

I hope to see you there!

(Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash)

The crisis plan

One of the worst things you can do is to try and make important decisions when you’re under great stress. While it can sometimes be necessary, the chances that you get it right are rather slim.

The best way to mitigate the risk of ending in that situation is to always have a contingency plan; a pretty straightforward plan that says what you are going to do if the shit hits the fan, and you need to get into full crisis mode.

Will the contingency plan always fit the crisis situation spot on? Of course not. But it will give you a much better vantage point to deal with the crisis from than – worst case – sheer panic.

A good contingency plan should focus on how you plan to deal with the really tough questions, if you need to:

How do you minimize your burn to the essentials without risking killing your company in the process? How do you deal with your team and let them in on what is happening in the best way possible? And following on from that: How do you scale your organization to the new reality in the best possible way?

These are all super hard decisions that no one are comfortable making. But by at least having given it some thought well in advance, when things are still looking good and going in the right direction, you’re able to address them with much more clear eyes and a sharp mind.

You can always hope and work towards ensuring that you will never get to use the plan. But at least you will have one. And that’s a huge difference.

(Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash)

Easy to buy

When you’re building something to solve peoples problems, it can be tempting to build feature after feature and try to sell them all to the customers at the same time.

What often happens is that it can be hard to get the customer engaged in a dialogue or a trial – simply because you’re overwhelming them with information about features, solutions etc that they have a hard time figuring out whether your product is actually a potential solution to the key problem you have.

As an alternative, you could start smaller. Start by telling about one thing that matters to a customer segment, who you know is experiencing the problem. Use that as a way of engaging in a dialogue or a trial, from which you can build from, upsell and secure an ongoing relationship to a future happy customers.

Start small. Be easy to buy. And then take it from there.

(Photo by Andrew Ling on Unsplash)

A new kind of rockstars

Until now it has been somewhat of an established truth that if you’re a software engineer, and you know your programming languages of choice really, really well, you can do pretty much anything;

You can bring new ideas to life, build new products, build new business even, if you’re an engineer with a keen interest in business as well.

On the flip side, business people have had a more rough time. Yes, they can get ideas, and yes they can sell products and run a business. But they have a hard, hard time building the actual products. For those they need the engineers.

It is all good. But maybe times are changing. Especially for the software engineers.

Because as Moores Law is nearing its end, chances are that the big advances in computing and innovation going forward is going to come from other places; from good old scientists working in labs on more material things that have little to do with what software can do in itself.

Thus a new dependency is created. Where business people used to be dependent on great software engineers to get anything done, software engineers will likely be growing a dependency on hard core scientists in order to make radical advancements that goes above and beyond what they can do themselves.

This will require a whole new level of collaboration across sectors and a mutual respect for what each skillset brings to the table. We will most likely see the ‘rockstar’ mantra vane and give place to a more collaborative and perhaps even humble approach, as we are to a certain extend moving into territory where no-one has been before, and where it would probably just be foolish to steam full ahead without taking the context and environment into account.

There is little doubt that these new collaborations will be able to do great things – and that they will need to in order to help us solve some of the massive challenges, we all have in front of us. And that those who can’t or won’t see this change coming is going to add new challenges to the ones, they already have.

(Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash)

Always stay alert

Just because you have made it once, doesn’t mean that you have made it forever.

Just as you replaced an incumbent by delivering a better, smarter, cheaper or whatever solution to your customers pains, somebody else could come in tomorrow and do to you what you did to them.

Just as you worked tenaciously to get to where you are today and be successful, numerous other players are plotting the same way against you as we speak.

So always stay alert. Always be ready to change and transform what you’re doing in order to stay ahead.

The second you stop doing that you risk becoming a lame duck.

(Photo by Advocator SY on Unsplash)

The corporate talent gift

In the startup environment it is not uncommon to frown upon people with experience from the corporate world. They are either too old, too conservative, to0 expensive or just too corporate to make it in the startup world.

But is this really true? I don’t think so.

In fact I think the right corporate profile is a gift to any startup. Why? Because corporate profiles with an interest in startups often come with two attributes, you could easily slot into the team.

First of all, if they are interested in startups, they’re likely to be more entrepreneurial than most corporate profiles in their approach to getting things done. They will likely have years of experience navigating opposition all around them from the big incumbents and with that also experience in how to get things done despite serious adversity.

That experience is gold for your startup.

Second, they are also likely to know a lot about spotting and managing risk. Everybody knows that in corporate life, the riskiest path to choose is the one challenging the norms. And unless your ambition is a fast forced exit, you will need to manage that and perform in order to stay alive in the organization. That takes some serious risk mitigation and sometimes even almost near death-experiences.

That experience is crucial to your startup.

Having said that there is one type of corporate profile that you should probably be wary off joining your team:

The one whose main motivation is a big personal payday courtesy of your startup.

While they may be willing to work hard at achieving it, having financial compensation as a sole major motivation can backfire. Because corporate profiles with that motivation will tend to do what serves their own needs and career progressions best, and that might not necessarily be what’s in your or your startups best interest.

So be on the lookout for that and be very aware of doing your personal due diligence, when you consider onboarding a profile like that for a specific role.

Other than that, just go for the corporate experience. Look at it this way: Many of these people are talents that big corporates have essentially paid to ‘educate’ to get the experience that your startup will benefit from.

That’s an awesome deal way too good to just keep lying around.

(Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash)

Find focus in a story

I have always found that one of the most efficient ways to establish a focus is to start with the desired outcome and then tell the story about what everything will be like, when that outcome is achieved.

My experience is that by doing that you can build a narrative of a desired future state that is so compelling that you’re willing to do your utmost to get there. Which of course means doing whatever is necessary to stay the course during the journey.

Of course, sometimes thing won’t go according to plan, and there will always be some deviations along the road. And in extreme cases you may even need to pivot. But no matter what you still have your story to stick with to help inspire you to continue despite the odds stacked against you.

You can call these stories many things. Some call it ‘purpose’ but personally I find it a bit to inefficient to stick to. I like going that bit deeper into the story and make it more tangible by putting scenarios and faces towards it. I find that by making it personal, it gives me more energy and allows me to focus better. But maybe that’s just a matter of individual taste.

No matter how you go about doing it, having a compelling story about the outcome you’re trying to achieve with everything that you do is always a good idea. It will bring you energy, when you need it, and it will also help you in figuring out, when you have arrived, and you can truly celebrate your achievement.

Photo by Elena Taranenko on Unsplash)